The last time we saw the Tennessee Titans in action they were handled with relative ease by the New England Patriots in the divisional round of last year’s playoffs.
Fast forward to present day, and it’s apparent that the Titans left Gillette Stadium that night with more than a loss…they left with a new mindset for the future.
Well, at least general manager Jon Robinson did.
The New England Patriots are the gold standard of all professional sports franchises. In an age where the salary cap is designed to promote parity around the league, the Patriots have dominated at an extremely high level for what seems like forever.
Their sustained excellence is now simply known as the Patriot Way.
Robinson knows this first hand. He worked his way up the ranks in New England’s scouting department for years before taking over as the Titans’ general manager in January 2016.
So while former head coach Mike Mularkey was encouraging fans to pat the Titans on the back for advancing further than they have in 14 years, Robinson was not satisfied.
He knew the ocean-sized gap between his current team and former team, and deliberately set out a course to shrink that gap by embracing one of the tried and true clichés….
If you can’t beat them….join them. Or more specifically, if you can’t beat them…have them join you.
The Patriot Way is a culture…a mindset, and to fully embrace this unique way of doing things Robinson had to bring in people who not only understood his vision, but also excelled in it.
And he wasted little time in doing so.
The players had barely cleaned out their lockers and conducted their exit interviews for 2017 when they learned that Mularkey was gone. In comes Mike Vrabel, who won three Super Bowls as a member of the Patriots before climbing the coaching ranks post retirement.
Last season Robinson brought over two former Patriots and Super Bowl champions in cornerback Logan Ryan and guard Josh Kine, who just signed a lucrative 4 year contract extension with the Titans today.
Earlier this week Robinson signed another pair of former Patriots in cornerback Malcolm Butler and running back Dion Lewis. They sport Super Bowl rings as well from their time in New England.
The Titans now have a head coach, as well as prominent starting-caliber players on both side of the ball, with intimate knowledge of the Patriot Way. Having players of that ilk with skins on the wall should help Vrabel, a first-time head coach, get his message across throughout the offseason and beyond.
On the flip side, a young Titans roster with their first taste of success should be hungry for more. They are in no position to scoff at the veteran newcomers who have been there and done that.
Besides…the best way to be successful is to study and immulate the habits of successful people. Ryan, Butler, Lewis, Kline, and Vrabel certainly fall into that category.
Will the Titans have Tom Brady under center next year? No. Will Bill Belichick be roaming the sidelines? No.
Will the new additions automatically spell success in Tennessee? Of course not.
But at the very least, the Titans chose the perfect role model to reshape their own image. And for a team that was three wins away from their own Super Bowl victory last season after a decade of despair, that’s all you can ask of them.
Welcome to the Patriot Way…the southern edition.